Over the course of the past decade, Saoirse Ronan has secured three Oscar nominations, two of them in the elite Best Actress category, yet the questions she’s asked most consistently are about the pronunciation of her name. The confusion over her monicker is so real that it’s become something of a joke at this point. Actually, it was the joke of her opening monologue when she hosted SNL in December.
Yes, Saoirse Ronan’s name is hard to pronounce, but it’s a name you want to know. Let’s take a look back at the actress’s 10-year evolution from Swar-say? Sheer-say? Sher-see? to Saoirse.
2008: Best Supporting Actress, Atonement
In 2008, Ronan was nominated for her first Oscar and taking a quick break from filming The Lovely Bones in New Zealand to attend the ceremony. But even though her work was recognized as among the best of the year, she was still very new to the scene. “The first time I just didn’t know anyone and nobody knew me,” Ronan said when she looked back on that night with Jimmy Kimmel.
The then-13-year-old was still enough of an unknown that her date — her mom — had an unfortunate encounter with one of Hollywood’s, and maybe even the world’s, biggest stars: George Clooney. “All I remember from the night, out of everything, out of the whole experience, is me doing an interview and being in the foreground of this camera shot and kind of going, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s just so great to be here!’” Ronan began.
Meanwhile, in the background, Clooney had stepped on the train of her mom’s dress, and her mom struggled to get him to notice. “She’s like, ‘Yeah, ‘scuse me, George. ‘Scuse me!’ and she keeps tapping him on the shoulder and he won’t turn around, and then it gets more and more aggressive, so she’s like, ‘George!’ And he won’t turn around and then eventually he just sort of like, you know, scuttled away,” Ronan said, laughing.
Although Ronan and her mom both recognized that the A-list run-in was a moment to remember — she ended the story with a gossipy, “She came up to me afterwards and she was like, ‘You’ll never believe what just happened to me. You’ll never believe what George Clooney just did to me!’” — the story goes to show that Ronan’s star was not yet bright enough to shield off a dress trampling.
2016: Best Actress, Brooklyn
Ronan spent the next few years bulking up her IMDb page with roles in The Way Back, Hanna, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Lost River, and more films, but it wasn’t until she played Brooklyn’s 1950s Irish immigrant Eilis, who falls in love in Brooklyn and must decide between a life in her home country or a life in America, that she earned her second nomination — this time in the Best Actress category — from the Academy.
Since this was her second Oscars nomination before her 22nd birthday, people realized it was time to take notice — or, at least, one person took notice: Ryan Gosling.
That year, Gosling had been working the awards season circuit adjacent to Ronan, promoting his movie The Big Short, and he taught the world exactly what we needed to know to skyrocket Ronan to stardom. “It’s Ser-sha, like inertia,” Gosling announced at the New Hollywood awards in November 2015.
Ronan was so grateful for her name savior that she later told People, “He’s like, Jesus or something, like a blond Canadian Jesus.”
2018: Best Actress, Lady Bird
Now, just two years later, Ronan has secured her third Oscars nomination, another Best Actress nod, after moving audiences with her titular role in Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age movie, Lady Bird, and Hollywood has finally gotten comfortable enough with her name that it’s become the subject of many an interview.
“Your name is a mystery to me,” James Corden told her, while Stephen Colbert took a more polite approach, asking, “How did I do with your name?”
“People don’t always get the name right, do they?” Giuliana Rancic asked Ronan on the SAG Awards red carpet, where she was a nominee.
“What’s the most mispronounced?” Kelly Ripa wondered, which opens up a whole different conversation.
Ronan takes all the name talk with stride, answering the same questions over and over, probably because she’s just happy people are trying to get it right. And as they should, because even though she hasn’t won an Oscar yet, it seems like this 23-year-old's name is destined to be remembered.